NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The conventional wisdom is that the antipathy -- or perhaps I should say "alleged antipathy" -- between President Obama and Wall Street is mutual. Obama and the Democrats have thrown Wall Street under the bus, the story goes, and the Street has reacted by showering contributions on Mitt Romney.
Bullfeathers. Obama has hardly been antagonistic toward Wall Street, as indicated, most recently, by his succumbing to congressional Republicans and supporting a horrid "JOBS Act" that blinks a green light to stock fraud. The other part of this myth is also untrue. While the so-called financial-services industry is definitely flocking to Romney and his hard-right running mate, they haven't abandoned Obama and congressional Democrats, especially the latter.
There's no question that the Street loves Romney and would be ecstatic if the Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress. How could they not feel warmly toward one of their own? A look at the top contributors to Romney, available at Opensecrets.org, indicates just how much of a Wall Street darling he has become. His chief source of contributions comes from executives of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America, while Obama's principal contributors work for the University of California, Google, a corporate law firm called DLA Piper and Harvard University.
Mind you, that's just counting sums going directly into the candidates' coffers. Financial-industry execs are also the top contributors to Super PACs and other outside spending groups, and they're showing their dollars overwhelmingly to conservative causes by a wide margin, $44.2 million versus $4.8 million for liberal PACs.That's a big shift from 2008, when the financial-services industry bet heavily on Obama and the Democrats. Goldman partners and associates, for instance, gave 75% of their contributions to Democrats in 2008; now the number is 27%. But Obama is still getting a considerable portion of his financing from that sector -- $12.2 million, versus $28.6 million for Romney. Clearly the GOP hasn't given up on Democrats, and they certainly have no reason to do so. A good example is the New York congressional delegation, which is solidly Democratic -- and solidly backed by the Street. The incumbent junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, is up for re-election this year against conservative Republican Wendy Long. Individuals and PACs from the securities and investment industry have poured $2.7 million into her campaign coffers, second only to lawyers, and are among the principal sugar daddies in a campaign in which she has exceeded Long in fundraising by a ridiculous margin, raising $13.8 million versus $337,000 for the Republican. Nobody seems to expect Long to win, and that includes law firms, even though she's a former litigation partner with Kirkland & Ellis. Wall Street is certainly not wasting any money on that lost cause. Law firms are Long's biggest source of contributions, totaling $38,550 to date. Meanwhile, the securities and investment industry has doled out $31,750 to her campaign. That is about the best numerical indication that the Republican is most definitely a long shot. (The polls, which show her far behind Gillibrand, agree.) Why back a Democrat and not a reliable conservative like Long? It's not just that Long doesn't have an icicle's chance in hell of winning. It's also that Gillibrand, like many on her side of the aisle, is no enemy of Wall Street. In fact, a few months ago she was being hailed in the business press as a "champion of Wall Street." In that capacity, she has taken over the mantle from the senior senator from New York, stalwart liberal Democrat Charles Schumer, who has had to temper his devotion to Wall Street now that he has become "more of a national Democratic leader," New York's Capital Web site reported in February. "Meanwhile," the Web site reported, "Kirsten Gillibrand has quietly overcome considerable skepticism about her on Wall Street to become a go-to advocate for the financial-services industry in her own right." And the Street is clutching the skepticism-overcoming junior senator tightly to its collective bosom, judging from its campaign spending. Wouldn't you give money to Gillibrand over a long shot (or even a short shot) challenger, if you were a banker or brokerage exec? You might do it to a worthy politician, or even do it if he or she isn't noted as a friend of Wall Street. Probably the best example is a New York congressman with a not-so-well-earned reputation for hostility to Wall Street, Gary Ackerman.